Tips for filing as head of household

Ask SC&H Group accountants a tax question.
Answers to selected questions will be published on Mondays.

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Login to ask SC&H Group accountants a tax question's tax-advice column features three experts from the Hunt Valley accounting firm SC&H Group answering questions about preparing your return every Monday until April 16. To be included in the following weeks, please use the form at the right side of this page to submit your questions.

Virginia, Baltimore: Does one have to have a dependent child or parent in order to claim head of household? What if you have a dependent relative -- say a son or daughter over the minimum age for dependent child who has less than $3,300 in income and lives in your home?

SC&H Group: In order to qualify as head of household (HOH), the taxpayer must (1) not be married at the end of the year, (2) have paid more than half the cost of keeping up his or her home, (3) provide the principal residence for more than half the year for either the taxpayer's qualifying child or the taxpayer's qualifying relative and (4) be a U.S. citizen or resident during the entire year.

A qualifying child is one who meets the following four tests:

Relationship -- The child must either be the taxpayer's son, daughter, stepchild, eligible foster child or a descendant of any of them. The child can also be the taxpayer's brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendant of any of them.

Age -- The child must be under age 19 at the end of the year or under age 24 if the child is a full-time student.

Residency -- The child must have the same principal address as the taxpayer's for more than half of the tax year.

Support -- The child cannot provide more than half of his or her own support.

A qualifying relative is a person who is not a qualifying child of anyone else and who meets the following three tests:

Member of household or relationship -- The person must live in the taxpayer's household for the entire year or be related to the taxpayer in any of the following ways: Child, stepchild, eligible foster child, grandchild, great grandchild, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, father, mother, grandparent, other direct ancestor, stepfather, stepmother, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law.

Gross Income Test -- The person must have less than $3,300 of gross income.

Support -- The taxpayer must provide more than 50% of the person's total support for the year OR not more than one person can provide over 50% of the person's total support but two or more persons collectively can.

Thomas, Baltimore: If you have a married couple with children living in the house, can one parent file for the head of household tax break or is that just for single parents?

SC&H Group: One of the requirements for a taxpayer to qualify as head of household is to not be married at the end of the year. The married couple you have described would be disqualified based on this requirement. However, a married taxpayer can still file as head of household if he or she meets all of the tests for being "considered unmarried." The tests for being "considered unmarried" are (1) the taxpayer files a separate return from the spouse, (2) the taxpayer paid more than half the cost of keeping up the home for the tax year, (3) the spouse did not live in the home during the last six months of the tax year, and (4) the taxpayer's home was the main home for more than half the year of his or her child or step-child. If either of the married individuals meets all of these tests, then they may file as head of household.

Tim, Exmore, Va.: Withholding was sent to Maryland for two months in error, my residence status having changed to Virginia in 2005. What is required for me to recover this money?

SC&H Group: If Maryland tax was withheld from your income in error, you must file a nonresident Form 505 to obtain a refund of the withholding. Complete all of the information at the top of the form through the filing status, residence information and exemption areas. Enter your federal adjusted gross income on line 17 in both columns 1 and 3 and line 24. Then complete line 33 (enter zero unless you claimed an earned income credit on your federal return), lines 43 - 48, 50 and 52.

After completing, sign the return and attach withholding statements (Form W-2 and/or 1099) showing the Maryland tax withheld equal to the refund you are claiming.

Kevin, Marriottsville: Are Homeowners Association fees tax deductible?

SC&H Group: Homeowners association fees are considered by the IRS to be personal living expenses and are not tax deductible.

Don, Baltimore: What can a person do if a 1098 received by that person is incorrect? For example, I mailed a check to my mortgage lender three days before the end of the year. The lender did not pick up that check, which includes principal and interest, in the 1098. Can I still claim the interest included in that check?

SC&H Group: The IRS instructs taxpayers that have paid home mortgage interest in excess of the amount reported on the Form 1098 to report the correct amount on Line 10 of Schedule A. Additionally, prepare and attach a statement explaining the difference and write "See Attached" next to Line 10. See IRS Publication 936 "Home Mortgage Interest Deduction" for more on this topic.

Answers to selected questions are published on Mondays.